31 August, 2006

Bible Study: Repent

Tonight was bible study night, the last one before the three week "semester break."

The pastor chose the verse. He wanted us all to look at Acts 2:38 about repenting and being baptized. He wanted us all to study baptism together.

I just could not get excited about the bunch of us getting all doctrinal together. Odd for me, of course, since I used to be SOOO doctrinal, but I really wanted to study experiential scripture.

Anyway, I studied like a bit of a stick in the mud.

But I did study.


We got together, and it turns out the Lord has been moving the message of repentance in his heart, and we talked about repenting all night long. It was fabulous! I had checked my stick in the mudness at the door, and I was so glad. (There were only 4 of us, so it was kind of important that we were all fully engaged.)


We talked about sin and repentance and how baptism is likened to pickling cucumbers. I thought that was so cool. The pastor's wife brought that one, and he had found it independently as well. A certain ancient Greek explained how to baptize a cucumber in vinegar to turn it into a pickle. We are preserved in Christ.

The conversation then moved into God Himself and our need to hear and talk about Him.

It was two hours of pure delight.


This post took about 10 minutes to write, once I turned off Agassi and Bagdhatis and got focused. The last presbuteras post will take longer than that, so look for it some time this weekend.

Love ya'll!

30 August, 2006

Verse of the Month: My Donkey in a Bind

Lu 14:5
And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?

I will forgive anyone who thinks that I might have picked that verse just to be obtuse. Just remember, I don't have to work at all to be obtuse. It comes real natural-like.


Numbers 15
15:32 And while the
children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
15:33 And they that
found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
15:34 And they
put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
15:35 And the
LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
15:36 And all the
congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Focus on the words, "And the Lord said..."

Dude was picking up sticks! He was not hurting children, or stealing from widows, or worshipping other gods. He was going to build a fire for someone he loved.

And it was not some legalistic Pharisee who interpreted God's law so harshly. "And the Lord said..."

God had said,
Exodus 20
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
20:10 But the
seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
20:11 For in
six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

God meant it.

The sabbath was an expression of deep meaning, and deep symbolism. God would not allow His sabbath to be corrupted. The life of a man was forfeit for trying that command.

I harass the Jews for erecting hedge laws around the sabbath, for example codifying the number of miles that a man could walk on the sabbath without sinning against the day of rest. But could I have read about a man stoned until dead for picking up firewood, and not needed hedge laws? How many hedge laws did I erect even after Christ's Blood cleansed me? How far away and how frightening was God even after His Grace was shed abroad to all, even me?

The Jews learned every law, and kept them wholly.

And Jesus would have none of it.

Jesus got in their faces to heal on the sabbath. He went out of His way to do something bigger than picking up sticks before their very eyes. He violated the sabbath before them - but He did not violate God's law.

Matthew 12
And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out ?
12:12 How
much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

It is lawful to do well, even on the sabbath.

Let me be more clear.

It is lawful to violate the sabbath to do well.

A man was picking up sticks, and he was killed on God's own command. But, Jesus declares it divinely righteous to pick up a sheep, a donkey or even an ox on the sabbath. An ox weighs a lot more than a stick. Getting an ox out of a hole can be a whole day's work, and nothing restful about it.

Yet, Jesus doesn't even blink.

The sabbath is one of the 10 commandments. It was engraved on stone. But, Jesus places acts of love for animals above it. How much more so love for people?

How far below "love" is "law?"

I don't know, but may no law ever keep me from pulling a brother out of a pit.

(Said as a brother who knows what the bottom of a pit looks like....)

29 August, 2006

Presbuteras: The Early Church?

Do me a favor before you read this post, and count the number of "F" 's in this sentence.


Now, it is going to come as no surprise to you if the number you come up with, and the number a computer would come up with are different. The difference is conditioning. We see what we are conditioned to see.

If you saw three of our letters in that sentence, you are a perfectly normal person. Four is rare, and seeing six qualifies you as a genius.

The tenor of the scripture is often brought into this discussion. The problem there is that the tenor of the scripture is a function of our conditioning much more than of the scripture itself. We all come to the bible with glasses on. What you make of this verse probably has more to do with your glasses than with the verse itself. But, if you see three or more female elders and deacons in the following verses, you are a genius. :-)

4:2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
4:3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

I once saw this verse through male-colored glasses. Paul had a male yokefellow, Clement, and some other fellow laborers. He also had respect for some especially helpful women. Paul's yokefellow was supposed to help the women and the other coworkers. The women needed help because they were the weaker sex, and the men needed help because they were doing important work.

Today, my glasses are of a different color. I see that those women labored with Paul in the gospel. They were doing important work, and needed help because of the importance of their work.

So, did my glasses change well?

I believe so with all my heart.

Did changing my glasses change the truth?


Those women did whatever it was they did, and Paul doesn't tell us what it was. We are left to ruminate and pontificate on the matter. Still, there is a lot of material with which to form our opinions. Karen listed a bunch of them in a previous comment, I previously linked a post from God's Word to Women that lists a bunch of them, and back in February I did a post that listed them all over again.

I read those verses with glasses on before, and I still do. I know that. I've just changed the color. I changed them because the scripture pushed me back into a corner. I was one of those fellows who was mad at Bobby Riggs for tanking every man's rep by losing to a girl at what was clearly a man's game. I wrote posters and otherwise campaigned against the ERA. Chauvinism was clearly God ordained, when exercised with the same loving care that Christ had for His bride. I was a loving, Christian, giving chauvinist, and I was proud of it.

Then the edifice of scripture started coming down around me.

After finding that Paul in Corinthians probably did not say what I thought he said, in Titus probably did not say everything I thought he said, and in Timothy said vastly less than I thought he said, my world started to spin a little more slowly. When I searched out Apphia, Junia, Tryphena, and all the other women whose necks and lives were found at risk for their their work with Paul, they began to look different. These were women of stature and substance. With my newly colored glasses, there was nothing to prevent these women from being of equal stature with Clement or Archippus (and slightly above Apollos ;-).

The tenor of scripture is that fewer women are leaders than men, but that they are effective when God calls them. DugALug has defended this position ably, and I agree with him. It appears that our only difference is that I believe women should be elders, and not just peripheral leaders.

In my next, and probably last post in this series, I will talk about why. For a preview, see this from the Milly Times!

28 August, 2006


Our old friends, Rich and Ken, from The Realm of Possibility have finally put out their first child's website:

The Dorkman Cometh!

If you have never read Rich riffing on the Web, you have missed one of the true acts of beauty and genius this medium affords. This book cannot be anything but comic and personal brilliance. I don't not recommend waiting for my review to pre-order your case quantities. :-)

Tennis: Playoff summary

The life lesson at the end of this piece is that I need to take responsibility for how things get into my head. Other than that, I'm just writing it because it is fun to tell tennis stories. Sometimes it is nice to know that nobody is going to read this stuff.

Anyway, this is the record of two matches.

Last weekend I played for the Columbus 3.5 men's championship singles. Which is a pretty cool way of saying that the 8 playoff bound teams each sent any old loser they could find who was willing to give up 2 days to tennis for the right brag misleadingly about his tennis skills. In the end, 4 men actually tried for the title.

Hardly anything to write home about.

Ah, but plenty enough for blog fodder, right?

This makes it all the sadder that I lost.

My first match was a semi-final. Sandy was my age, and was personable. His strokes turned out to be solid, but not deadly. The situation was into my head, but not too badly. I was nervous, but I could still feel the ball, so that was cool. If the stress levels get high enough, I describe myself as "playing by braille." I cannot feel my body as it goes through the motions my mind is telling it to try. All in all, everything was working OK. I was trading games with Sandy, but I was hitting well enough to take my share.

I won the first set at 6-4, and immediately began getting nervous about losing the second. It happens. I come in wound tight for the first set, and blow through, then loosen up in the second and lose it. I usually have to lose a few games in the second set to fix my head, and get back to hitting. It's stupid and dangerous, but I have not figured that mental hiccup out yet.

I stayed tight enough, I guess, because I won the second set 6-1.

In the the final, I played Matt. I know him and his game. I'd never played him in singles, and only beaten him once in doubles, and then because my partner was stronger than I was. I started the match wound really tight, and went up 5-0. I was drilling the balls into the corners, picking on his backhand and throwing him with spin shots. In short, I was playing my match.

Next thing I knew, it was 5-2, and I was down 15-40 on my serve. This was unpleasant, because I was not sure whether I was choking, or whether he was suddenly doing better. I ratcheted things up a bit in my head, and served harder. It was enough. I finished the first set 6-2.

I kept things up in the second set, starting it 1-0, but suddenly I looked up to find the score was 1-5. I had dumped 5 games in a row.

The questions were flowing through my head like blood in a slaughter house.

It's hard to think when things are so slippery and icky in the old brain department.

I had to ask, was I choking, or was he playing better?

What I would not give to learn how to think during a tennis match. Instead of thinking, though, I buckle down harder, and play my game. There are worse strategies. Buckling down brought me back to 4-5. I had taken three games straight, and fought to achieve deuce in the deciding game. If I won the next two points, then we were level, and the set was fresh. I did not. Matt took the second set 6-4.

I had the lead in the tiebreak 7-4 at one point. Then 8-6. Then suddenly it was 8-10.

I spent the next 3 days asking myself why I lost that match?

I decided it was because I did not see what was happening. You see, we were playing on clay, which is a surface I hardly know, and on which I am not comfortable. I play on hard courts. On clay, my flattish placement game is easily defended against, because the ball bounces slow and high. Matt plays on clay 3 times a week, and has for years. He knows that you win on clay by cranking massive topspin onto the ball and forcing errors from your opponent.

Simply put, whenever I could enforce my hardcourt style on Matt, I was winning. Whenever he could force his claycourt style on me, he was winning. It being a clay court, it was easier for him to force than it was for me.

The biggest thing in my mind, though, was that I never objectively understood what was happening until the match was over. If I had "gotten it" before the match ended, I might have been able to rush the net for his moonball topspins, and taken that weapon away from him. (Insert sounds of kicking self here.) I only needed two points to win that match. On those critical points, he was able to bait me with balls that looked easy, but really were solid topspins on clay.

Lesson learned.

Yesterday ended better. My team lost the meet 2-3, but I won my match.

I've got to tell you, I wish someone had been rolling videotape, because it was one of my best ever. Doggone it's fun when thing are working like that. Both teams had placed their #1 player on court #2. It's a strategy my captain favors, so I play on court #2 a lot. (When Tom is there, he is our #1 player, but he was not there yesterday.) JR was their #1 player, so JR and I squared off. Before the warmups were over, it was clear to everyone on the court that he and I were equal, and that our partners were both pretty average. JR was more aggressive than I am maybe, but we hit the same serve, same groundstrokes and with the same intensity.

The first set was 6-0.

It was a pleasant surprise to me, and a complete shock to them. Everything was working. JR's serve was the best I'd seen all year, and I was returning it effectively with ease. My partner was having a little trouble with it, but he got back enough to close out the set cleanly. I probably had fewer than 10 shots in that set that I could complain about. It was massively wonderful and totally surprising.

The second set started out 3-0. We had kept up the roll. That turn into the second set is one of the hardest things in tennis, and we had made it. We dropped one game for 3-1, but that was no sweat, because I was serving again, and my serve was on.

JR looked at me and politely said, "I need you to watch out for those foot faults."

We lost the set 3-6.


Just like that, I lost 5 games in a row for us.

That's what it takes to beat Kevin Knox at the game of tennis.

I have no clue how to fight that kind of head game.

That's embarassing.

And not very effective.

You see, my style of serve is engineered to ensure that I never, ever foot fault. I place my left foot one inch back of the service line (just to be sure,) and then never move it. My right foot ends up safely behind my left, so at no moment is there any risk that I have foot faulted. Therefore, JR was saying that strictly to get into my head. He wanted to mess up my serve a bit by getting me to start thinking about my motion and delivery. Little did he know that I was going to start a mental meltdown of epic proportions. He was happy to take the next 5 games straight, though.

The third set started on my serve again. I had just finished losing two service games in a row, but I managed to successfully mentally reset. How much of that was because a pretty girl started watching the match, I'll never know. She was there for 4 games, watching everyone. I don't know why that settles my mind the way it does, but we won those 4 games, and started the third set up 4-0.

Somehow, imagining that someone is watching me allows me to quit thinking about myself and start thinking about the job at hand. I don't know why that is, but it surely is.

We ended the third set 6-2. We had effectively crushed the best team our opponents could field, and it felt good. It felt great.

I was really angry about JR having resorted to such a cheap trick, and I told a former parnter about it. Steve looked at me and said, "So really, it was your fault. You should never have let him get into your head like that."

I told him to keep telling me that, because I needed to hear it. I guess I will have to figure it out somehow. It was my fault. I knew what he was doing, and why, and I am solely at fault for us almost tossing the whole match. Thank goodness for random pretty girls. ;-)


There were several highlights. I will mention two.

They dropshotted me all through the match. That makes me smile from a very deep place in my heart. :-) I wear right side knee and elbow braces whenever I play. They are mandatory, but only from a maintenance perspective. Without them, the pain makes play impossible. They don't indicate any actual weakness, though. I don't believe they won a single point that they dropshotted me. I will cross 40 feet before that little ball bounces twice every time. Yesterday, I got there and did something effective with the ball every time. That is more fun than almost anything.

They also tried some lobs on us. I got to most of them as well. There was one in particular, though, that was a highlight. They hit one deep into our backhand corner. I tracked that sucker all the way back to the fence, and put a particularly sucky backhand on it. It was nowhere even near the court.

What makes that a highlight is that there is a 4 inch steel lamppost back there, square shaped. It was not even in my mind.

I have no idea how fast I was going when I hit it, but I know that I keep my head up on my backhand, because I hit it square in the center of my chest, instead of hitting it with my head (which would have been more dangerous for the lamppost.) It was just like on the cartoons. My whole body kept moving at full speed, but my chest stopped. My arms and legs flew straight ahead, and then ended up wrapped rather intimately around my insensitive new friend. I just hung there for a second until my mind concocted a likely story to explain what on earth had just happened. :-)

I wish and double wish that I had that on tape. It had to be hilarious.

They asked me how I was feeling, and I admitted that I had felt better.

I must not have been going too fast, though, because it hurts today, but not badly enough to slow my trip back from Atlanta to Columbus.

I love that game.


The trip down to Atlanta was uneventful, and I expect the trip home to be the same.


Yep, uneventful. I'm home now, and should get back to presbuteras shortly.

23 August, 2006

Presbuteras: Subjecting the Daughters of the Lord - 1 Tim 2:11-15

Finally, it's time to throw caution to the wind, and jump into the core passage of this discussion. I had considered knocking down a few more of the supports under it, but I have probably tried everyone's patience enough as is.

1 Tim 2:11 & 12 is the rock against which everyone shipwrecks in this discussion. We egalitarians cannot tiptoe around it, and complementarians won't step off it. If it is taken at face value, then everything else I have said in this series is whistling through the graveyard. This passage means something, and whatever that is should decide how women serve God through the church.

For this interpretation of 1 Tim 2 I am entirely in the debt of:
Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger, "Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence: I Suffer Not a Woman."
Dr. Ann Nyland, "The Source" New Testament, especially "1 Timothy with Notes."

Any time you spend reading these two sources will be highly valuable. Dr. Nyland's gritty interpretation of Paul is truly eye-opening.

1 Timothy 2 (KJV)
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Paul never meant that women can only serve the church by learning in silence, and we have gravely erred in subjecting our sisters to this misapprehension for millenia. It is time to break the chains of this fiction.

In this letter Paul is coaching Timothy through solving several particularly knotty problems in Ephesus. One of them has to do with a contingent of lazy philosophers and a few rich women recently converted from the synagogue. These philosophers have discovered that there is a good living to be sucked up in mooching off these powerful, rich, recently converted women. These men earned their bread by preaching downtown for alms, but they found out after they converted to Christianity that these women would support them totally. They don't need to go out and beat the bushes looking for new prospects for their ideas. To fill their bellies, they need only set up shop in these ladies' homes and blend all the wisdom of the age for them.

These philosophers joined the church, but failed to meet the Lord. They succeeded in learning the doctrine and lingo of the Christians around them, but not in meeting the Master. These women are used to having the lead in religious life, and have naturally begun to take charge of things in Ephesus. Unfortunately, they have succumbed to these philosophical flatterers (2 Tim 3:6), and are mingling gnosticism into their Christianity.

Let's start with the "verse by verse" this time.
1 Timothy
In like
manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
In the churches, there was a tradition of addressing each other only by first name. Family names said too much about station in life, so they simply quit using them. Even so, to flaunt your position over everyone else in the church by apparel was wrong.

I drift from the standard interpretation in that most people consider this to be a verse about sexual display, where I consider it to be about the display of power and wealth. The words "modest," "shamefacedness," and "sobriety" all admit of my meaning, but the translators seem to have been focused on women as sexual objects. The preceeding and following verses address politics far more directly than carnality.

But * (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
Again, good works of love excel over displays of power and position. Dr. Nyland, however, adds a deeply significant interpretation of the parenthetical phrase. By it, she turns this verse on its ear.

The word for "godliness" is actually directly translated, "God-fearer." This was a bit of jargon for a person who was a practicing Jew, but not circumcised. That understood, the word, "professing," easily takes the meaning of "instructing." Paul says here that it becomes a woman who is teaching the God-fearers to adorn herself with good works. Dr. Nyland at this point documents several women who are historically identified as elders and teachers in the synagogue, thereby establishing that women could indeed have been teachers of the God-fearers.

These are our rich Jewish women, who were used to taking the lead in religious matters. As Jews, they had been teachers. Now they were Christians, and trying to get back into the driver's seat as quickly as possible.

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
These women should not be teaching. They should be learning. They were teachers of the law (as Paul references in 1 Tim 1), but all their old knowledge is just vain jangling in the church. By their ignorance, they were causing a fuss, and that needed to end.

The word, "silence," here is not a verbal silence, but a practical one. It is used in Acts and Thessalonians, and in both cases it means to quit making a fuss. So these women were to quit being a disturbing issue in Ephesus. They were to learn without disturbing the lessons with their ignorance, and as we quickly learn, with their errors.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger have reworked this passage based upon their understanding of the word, "authentein," which is translated here, "authority." The core of their findings from ancient texts is that authentein (which appears only once in the bible) was a word co-opted by a local fertility cult. Dr. Nyland pursues the same conclusion, finding something even more amazing.

Dr. Nyland has Paul suffering not a woman to say she is before the man. She quotes one of several gnostic creation myths that has Eve breathing the breath of life into Adam, and therefore becoming the mother of all the living. Eve, they see as the source of all secret knowledge. She was the one who broke open the veil of mystery by taking of the fruit of knowledge. She was Vulcan who brought fire to God's creatures. Eve was their source of gnosis.

Paul says that he suffers not these Jewish women, mislead as they have been by their philosopher buddies, to teach that they are superior to men.

For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
Paul corrects the first error of this gnostic myth by a simple reminder from Genesis.

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Paul goes further in correcting this error. Far from doing the wisest, bravest thing ever for mankind, Eve blundered when she took in that fruit. The word translated here as transgression is actually a weaker Greek word for sinful blunder. The word for direct, rebellious sin is much stronger, and is used much more often.

Eve did not bravely risk death by choosing knowledge over subservience, as the gnostics taught. Eve made a childish mistake. She sinned stupidly.

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
Some believe that the childbearing referenced here is that of a Christian woman giving birth to hers and her husband's children. That is a very unlikely and weak understanding of this verse. Paul is still refering to the promise of Genesis, that the Seed of the woman would crush the serpent. This is in keeping with the entire argument. Eve was no hero for taking the fruit of knowledge, but Eve's gender can rejoice in being the bearer of the Redeemer. Contrary to gnostic fantasies, women and men are together in everything, including their dependence upon Christ for every blessing.

The entire argument goes like this.

Timothy, those rich women are causing a ridiculous fuss and stir because of their pride. They should quit with the ostentatious display of wealth, and begin acting the part of teachers, if that's what they think they are. But before they teach, they must first learn. They are asserting foolish things, and I cannot allow you to allow them to do this. Woman is not the source of all wisdom, and woman did not precede man in creation. Go back and read Genesis to them, and teach them that the birth of the Messiah is the only thing that matters. Let them rejoice in Him.

The follow-on to the argument is that women and men should both desire the office of elder.

1 Tim 3:1
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

The word translated "man" here is not gender specific. To a Greek, it would have read, "If anyone desires..."

Let the sisters be trained, and let them learn the truth, then let them desire the office of elder.

Again, I wish to point out that I am taking Paul quite literally. Paul says that he suffers not a woman to teach, and I believe him. I just believe that Paul knew exactly which women it was that he was not allowing to teach and why. I even believe that he tells us.

Now, about those millions of other women who are alive today, and have a storehouse of treasure to offer the body....


It is late now, and I will be gone Thursday through most of Saturday, so I am going to leave off addressing counter-arguments to this scenario. I'm sure they will arise, and I'm sure they will be worthy, so I will try to comment as much as possible until I leave, then address the biggest one(s) when I return.

Thank you to all for your patience with my plodding pace on this. You have certainly made it a joy for me to keep after it.

21 August, 2006

Engaging: Working out our salvation with fear and trembling

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Thursday night was way cool.

I have been invited to help out by teaching my pastor's small group. On my first two nights, we went over the same lesson twice. It is the lesson that I posted a couple weeks ago on studying the scripture using Crosswalk.com. (I have not told anyone about e-Sword yet, but it could still happen.)

I have heard bible studies called, "share your ignorance sessions." I don't want to go down that road, so I figured we would get serious about the endeavor. The pastor chose Phil 2:12 & 13 for us as our first verse, and Thursday we looked at it together.

This passage is an interesting choice, because it is highly theological. Some people don't even see the conflict, while others obsess about it. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling?" What could that possibly mean? I thought we were saved by faith, not works, much less fear? "It is God Who works in us to will to do His good pleasure?" I thought exercising our will to turn to Him was supposed to be the one thing we did on our own? And these two opposite problems are put by Paul immediately next to each other?


Like I said, it was an interesting choice for a first lesson.

The meeting was about like usual. Only half the people showed up, and we started way late. Of those who attended, everyone had spent some time in the verses. That's a little unusual, but really good news. The fact was that I was not going to be teaching what Paul meant, so that was almost mandatory.

Nobody had anything to say, but I resisted the urge to just start teaching. I began asking questions. Questions are funny things. They can be so powerful, or so boring. It's all a matter of whether the answers are known to the teacher. No adult wants to answer a question only to find out that the teacher knew the answer, and is going to correct some little nitpick every time anyone hangs an answer out there. Who wants to be exposed to ridicule for no reward?

Anyway, everyone had a hard time getting their mouths open. That's OK. I had all night, and I made sure that every answer I received was right. The questions were like, "Doesn't this seem hard?" It's really hard to answer that question wrong. ;-)

We had gone down a handful of rabbit trails, and had a pretty tame discussion when the pastor pretty much declared the meeting over. I resisted, because I knew that more was possible if we just gave it another second. I launched another trial balloon, and Rachel took that as her cue to read two verses she had brought. I forget the first. The second made the meeting.

I will not tell every story of how these things come up, but I really thought it was cool that the bible study idea "worked." Rachel, and everyone else, brought the richness of a little time alone with the word to a meeting, and we gave her time to bring up what she found. In return, she saved the meeting. I sincerely hope that we can develop a habit of looking at scripture openly and together on Thursday nights. It is a weak idea if everyone comes to the meeting cold, but with a week to study the passage, it can be very cool.


Let me tell what we found, because it was beautiful.

Rachel quoted:
6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do , that we might work the works of God?
6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The work of the Father is to know His Son. Our work is to be intimately joined into the living interchange of the Godhead. We are to know Jesus, not as a science project, but as a Friend, and even as a Fiance. We are to pursue Him as the chief joy of our lives, because He is.

This does not happen by chance. You don't stumble into intimacy with God. Pain and effort and success and failure and joy all play their roles in coming to know and trust the invisible One Who loves us. There is a work involved in our salvation.

And there is fear and trembling. There is fear in every relationship. If no other, then the fear that you might waste opportunity for more joy. But there is always a genuine fear of offense given, and of distance not crossed. There is a dread that 40 years from now I might learn how my heart's weakness caused me to miss knowing, really knowing, the God of Love.

But there is a reassurance too. For it is God Who works in me to want the good things that He wants. Because God works in me to will these things, and even to do them, I can turn to Him in trusting reliance. He taught me to fear, and He is my relief for those fears.

We do not fear that we may not be clean before Him. We don't work out our justification. He has taken care of that. We do fear failing to do the work of the Father, though, because that work is our highest good. Fortunately, He works in us daily and deeply, so there are grounds for hope.


I hope to do more on this "engaging" topic. I have no idea what it will look like, but I hope to make it about engaging God.

16 August, 2006

Presbuteras: Phebe - "Deacon?" - Demoting the Daughters of God - Rom 16:1&2

DugALug comments on my suggestion that Phebe was a deacon, in the truest spiritual sense of the word:

Nice try, but we use the work Deacon in english to mean that you are a person of leadership in the church... or you could be someone who attends wake forrest.

With that logic I could also conclude that Jesus was a physical door. It is all about context, and you haven't established that the context is the same.

I like that you keep me honest, sir. :-) As I started answering this, the comment block on the previous post began begging for mercy. So, I gave up trying to fit it all in a little comment. Establishing a context seems to take a little verbiage. ;-)

Here goes.

I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever * * business she hath need of you: for she * hath been a succourer of many, and of myself * * also.

Let's start with the word, "commend". With this word, Paul defines himself as an apostle (by affirming that he need not defend his commendation from the Lord.)

2Co 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2Co 5:12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Paul is giving Phebe some exceptionally high praise, if she is just a servant to some member of the church in Cenchrea.

2Co 10:18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

Phebe does not commend herself here, but rather Paul does. And I might say that whom Paul commends is probably worthy of some attention.


Now on to the word, "receive".

Phil 2:29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
(Of Epaphroditus, whom Paul is sending back to Philippi as a faithful servant.)

Col 4:10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
Php 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
Ga 4:14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
2Co 7:15 And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.

[Of Titus]

Paul uses this word, "receive," often to talk about accepting profitable workers into the church's heart. There is no textual reason to assume that he means any less here. Add to that simple command to receive Phebe, the fact that Paul tells this church to receive her "in the Lord," and it becomes an almost irresistible weight pulling us in the direction of seeing Phebe as a worker in the Lord on a similar plane with Epaphroditus, Marcus or Titus.


As to the business she had in Rome. Pragma can mean any number of things. The assumption of many is that she was on a business trip or some such. She was certainly a woman of some means, so there is just cause to lean in that direction. Still,

2Co 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

The word, "pragma," appears 3 times in this passage, talking about the business of repentance.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Again, pragma is the substance and evidence in Heb 11:1. Her business could as easily be spiritual as not.


Succourer is never again used in the New Testament, so it is hard to know what Paul might have meant by his use of that word in that place. A student of Greek could go to extra-biblical references, but I am certainly not one of those. Instead, I turn to a lexicon.

Thayer's and Smith's lexicon has this to say:
1. a woman set over others
2. a female guardian, protectress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources

Hmmm. Leadership and/or guardianship. Paul uses a strong word to describe her position in the church.


Lastly, she was entrusted by Paul to deliver the word of God to the church in Rome! That needs more exclamation points!!! And Paul himself testifies that he knows that what he is writing is the very word of God.

Find me another of Paul's letters that was delivered by a Christian businessman, just because he happened to be heading in that direction. It doesn't exist. And this is not just some simple letter. This is Paul's magnum opus, and he knows it. Paul always, always sent his letters by the hands of church leaders whom he trusted. (Well, there's Onesimus carrying the letter to Philemon, but that was kind of special.) Why would he send this treasure by the first businesswoman who happened to be headed West on Tuesday?

Paul had all of the brothers in Corinth and Cenchrea (they're what, 6 miles apart?) to choose from when he was deciding by whom to send this letter to Rome. Paul chose Phebe. She was not a scullery maid who cooked great biscuits for Paul! She was not even merely a woman of human wealth who opened her home to Paul. She was the single person, of all the members of two commendable churches, whom Paul believed should deliver this letter to a fledgling church with awesome potential.

Phebe was the deacon sent by Paul and the Spirit to minister to a young church made up of elder Christians, and Paul commended her, commanding that she be received as such.

If Phebe had been "Jason" or "John" or "Gaius," we would not be having this discussion. All the textual evidence points to "deacon" meaning "deacon", and emphatically so.

Presbuteras: Passing Over the Daughters of God

Because of these three passages, we pass over women as potential elders and deacons in the church. Titus 1: 5-9, Titus 2: 3 -5, 1 Timothy 3: 1-13

Needless to say, I believe this is a mistake, and for pretty simple reasons.

This morning, I posted a ridiculous comment about the PBR and Ice Dancing. I specifically addressed "Gentlemen," asking them to answer with their opinions on the subject. Knowing, of course, that only Milly knew anything meaningful about bull riding it was a pretty safe assumption that I should get her opinion, but I didn't ask for it. I simply knew I could count on it, and I was glad when she responded with a wink and some solid information.

When I did not forbid women to answer my post, I just assumed that the one who knew the answer would jump in and give it.

Even so....

Search those three passages all day long, and you will not find any word forbidding women to take the position of elder or deacon. You will infer from the fact that 1 Tim 3:1 says "man" that only a man can desire this position. Of course, the Greek does not say, "man." The Greek says, "any." The same is true in Titus 1. If "any" desire the office of bishop, he desires a good work. If "any" be blameless.

I will cut through a bunch of my usual rambling to make the point directly.

1 Tim 3:10 & 11
And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

This is the best verse for "proving" that Paul only meant for men to be deacons and elders. The word for wife here is not the word for "spouse," if such a word exists, so it surely means that only a husband can be a deacon.

The only problem with that argument is Rom 16:1.

Romans 16:1
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

The word, "servant," in Greek is Diakonos. Yep, exactly the same word as is found in 1 Tim 3:10. So, "Phebe our sister" directly violates this very popular inference.

There is no command in any of these three passages forbidding a woman to lead in the church. These three passages reveal clearly that it was uncommon for a woman to be a leader, but that's small potatoes. It was utterly forbidden for a woman to read the scripture just 60 years prior, when Christ was toddling! In ~20 years to have reached the place that Phebe could be a living challenge to our modern inferences is beyond amazing - it is miraculous.

And we have fallen back from that high water mark.

Shame on us.

There remains only one more passage to discuss, 1 Tim 2:11. I hope to rein it back in Sunday night. Until then!

Sidebar: PBR versus Ice Dancing

Gentlemen, let me know what you think about this thesis.

Professional Bull Riding is not a real sport, any more than is Ice Dancing.

They are both subjectively scored by judges, and neither involves head-to-head competition. In fact, should they change the name to Professional Bull Dancing?

14 August, 2006

Presubuteras: Silencing the Daughters of God - 1 Cor 14:34 & 35

(There's something wrong with this post, so I will be messing with it. There are no substantive changes.)

For your review, 1 Cor 14.

Let me start by fisking a little of John Gill. I did not pick him because he is exceptional in his opinions on this subject, nor is he harsh, and I actually like some of his stuff. I picked him because he's the best commentator on the standard interpretation of these verses on Crosswalk, and he's just verbose enough for me. :-) Mr. Gill is in italics, and phrases he quotes are in bold.

Let your women keep silence in the churches…
This is a restriction of, and an exception to one of the above rules, that all might prophesy; in which he would be understood of men only, and not of women; and is directed against a practice which seems to have prevailed in this church at Corinth, allowing women to preach and teach in it; and this being a disorderly practice, and what was not used in other churches, the apostle forbids and condemns, and not without reason:

Strong words, and completely unjustified by the text. Paul says it is "against the law" for women to preach, but he never says it is disorderly for them to do so. Paul also gives no example of harm done by women teaching, so why does Mr. Gill say that Paul's command is "not without reason?" (Mr. Gill's comment that women teaching was not allowed in the churches of Christ is a falacy of assuming the conclusion. For shame.)

for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
that is, in public assemblies, in the church of God, they might not speak with tongues, nor prophesy, or preach, or teach the word. All speaking is not prohibited; they might speak their experiences to the church, or give an account of the work of God upon their souls; they might speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or speak as an evidence in any case at a church meeting; but not in such sort, as carried in it direction, instruction, government, and authority.

And now Mr. Gill invents distinctions that suit his fancy, rather than the text. He permits some speaking, simply because Paul's bald statement is obviously non-sensical, but not because anything in the text makes such an allowance. He is actually quite gracious in allowing a woman to testify in matters of law or to give their own spiritual history before the church, but is he textually consistent? I don't see it. If you believe Paul meant anything, there is no textual reason to believe he didn't mean everything.

It was not allowed by God that they should speak in any authoritative manner in the church; nor was it suffered in the churches of Christ; nor was it admitted of in the Jewish synagogue; there, we are told, the men came to teach, and the women (ewmvl) , "to hear": and one of their canons runs thus;

a woman may not read (that is, in the law), (rwbub) , "in the congregation", or church, because of the honour of the congregation;

for they thought it a dishonourable thing to a public assembly for a woman to read, though they even allowed a child to do it that was capable of it.

Ah. Mr. Gill strikes to the heart here, and just glosses it over. There is no law which requires a woman to be silent anywhere from Genesis 1 to Malachi 4. But there is a strong Jewish Oral Law which does exactly that. This Jewish law would allow a male child to read the law, but would shun a congregation as fouled if a mature woman read the same glorious truths to them with better understanding. (Again, Mr. Gill's comment that women teaching was not allowed in the churches of Christ is the falacy of assuming the conclusion.)

But they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
In (Genesis 3:16) , "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee". By this the apostle would signify, that the reason why women are not to speak in the church, or to preach and teach publicly, or be concerned in the ministerial function, is, because this is an act of power, and authority; of rule and government, and so contrary to that subjection which God in his law requires of women unto men.

Mr. Gill knows that there is no command in the law that requires a woman to be silent, so he begins fishing. He throws his baited hook into 39 books worth of law, history, poets and prophets and pulls up the curse spoken by God against Eve.


Anyway. Gen 3:16 says nothing about women being silent anywhere, at any time. Mr. Gill is going to assert that Paul is merely implementing God's law on the basis of Gen 3:16? Ludicrous. He has to build a tie between speaking and authority that is arbitrary and foolish. Are there not men who are under authority? When those men speak, are they in rebellion against that authority? No.

He resorts to this over-worked, hackneyed argument because none other is available to him. And why is no other available to him? Well, first because it is not there. But second it is because he does not see the very clue that he pointed out just a paragraph ago.

The extraordinary instances of Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, must not be drawn into a rule or example in such cases.
OK. Now this is just a chuckle. He wants to just ignore God's record because those cases are special. It puts me in mind of an old joke about physicists, odd numbers and primes. I will settle for quoting two punch lines:

Various theorists offer various proofs that every odd number is prime:
Mathematician: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime. The result follows by induction."
Physicist: "3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is experimental error, 11 is prime, 13 is prime ..."

Golly, but life would be nice if you could just say, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," every time there was a difficult question in life.


Mr. Gill has attempted to defend a losing position for the noble reason that it is in scripture, and scripture is always right. "Paul was just wrong here," is not a defensible position, so Mr. Gill nobly soldiers off in defence of the indefensible. But, is there a possible way that the scripture is right, Paul is right, and that verse is just plain wrong? Of course there is. :-)

Let me drop back to 1 Cor 7:1 for a second.

1 Corinthians 7:1
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Someone from Corinth has written to Paul and said that men had best give up on sex - and, evidently, any other touching of women - if they are going to serve the Lord well. (Yet another area in which the sexes get unequal treatment, but let's not rabbit-trail on this one.) Paul is caught in a quandry by this one. He has a foot in both camps. He ends up talking clearly but guardedly as he makes it plain that it's all good, but maybe even better with abstinence.

The point is that when Paul makes this statement out of the blue about it being good not to touch a woman, it's not just out of the blue. Paul is answering a direct question from someone, and that someone was a Jewish member of the church in Corinth. This happens several times in the latter half of the book.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.....

1 Cor 14:34 & 35 were written for Paul (by three stenos, apparently) but they were not spoken by Paul. He is quoting these same Judaizers from way back in Chapter 7. It is these Jews who reference the Oral Law as if it were divinely ordained, not Paul. Again, with this little, and contextually supported, observation the entire passage becomes clear.

Verse by Verse

For ye may all prophesy one by one *, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
All may learn and all may be comforted, and one must assume that "all" includes women. We have already examined and seen that women were told by Paul that they need never veil while prophecying (though they could if they wished.) So, it is a small step to realize that the "all" who may prophecy includes women.

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
So prophets must be fallible in New Testament times? Hmmm. But that's a huge rabbit trail.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Paul is here confronting the abuse of gifts in Corinth, and he is saying that you don't need to silence anyone. You merely need to bring order to their offerings. The prophets should subject themselves to each other, and when the Spirit is working this work, He will work peace.

Note the word, "For." "For God is not the Author ..." Paul is now done with his argument. He even brings up his final point in every argument, "... as in the all the churches of the saints." That is a clean end to a subject.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
Note now, the lack of an "and." Paul in no way joins this thought to the one before it. This makes perfect sense if he is starting a new subject with yet another quote from the Judaizing letter. It is peripherally related in that the Jews bring it up to stop women from prophecying, but it is a whole new tack on the subject.

Paul probably finished writing 1 Cor 11 about 20 minutes ago, give or take. Paul had three amatuer stenos trading seats so they could stay fresh and keep up with him, so he is moving fast. 20 minutes ago Paul told women that they could speak unveiled. The odds that 20 minutes later he is telling them never to speak again are just about nil. The odds that Paul is quoting a non-existent law as if were known to everyone are just about nil. The standard interpretation just does not fit.

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
This sentence needs to be relinquished to the dustbin of history forever. It was the cancerous cawing of a man who loved the law more than God. The man who wrote this to Paul wished to bring circumcision back, but knew he'd lost that battle for all time. The Judaizers could not win the battle of circumcision, because Paul had successfully upped the ante by equating circumcision to an offense against the death and resurrection of our Lord. They could still hold out in the backwoods and caves of misogyny, though, and they obviously did.

Find me a verse that says women should ask their husbands at home, or that it would be a shame for a woman to speak in the assembly of the redeemed. Caveat - that verse has to exist at the time of this writing. 1 Tim 2:11 was not written for several more years. In writing this verse, Paul either claimed Jewish tradition as fact, or he was quoting someone who did.

What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
And here is the icing to the proof cake. Paul immediately and sternly rebukes the men who had the audacity to write those words. It is an act of pure sophistry to interpret this rebuke as somehow supporting the silencing of women. Paul says, in the clearest possible terms, that the word of God did not come out of, nor unto those men who were putting out their oral traditions as binding upon the daughters of the Lord.

If any
man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
Let that Judaizer acknowledge that ALL are allowed to prophecy as Paul has already said. Let him acknowledge that women need never veil the beauty of the Lord's work by silencing the praise welling up from their spirits, nor by veiling. Let him acknowledge that Paul's words are divinely inspired, and that the oral traditions to which they are binding their sisters are dung and refuse.

How many centuries?! How many centuries must we bind our women under these Jewish traditions built to break the heart?

But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Paul's tone here is entirely insulting, and I praise the Lord for it.

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
And Paul circles back. He reminds them that they are brethren. Adelphos is the freer of the Greek words for mankind, and it definitely includes sisters in its scope. Let every member of the church covet to prophecy, and forbid no member to speak with tongues.

Let all things be done decently and in order.

There's no magic in these interpretations. I'm not pulling up bizarre imaginations about how culture back then demanded that Corinthian women act differently than Ephesian women. I'm just bringing back to mind the story of the New Testament.

Judaizers plagued all the churches. If I seem to come down hard on the Judaizers, I yet don't believe all Jews were Judaizers. Those who placed their law before Christ, though, richly earned Paul's rebuke because they place unbearable burdens on the people of God.

Of the saints in Corinth, we can only guess how many were Jews who deeply loved the Lord. We can be sure, though, that there was a vocal minority who wrote a letter to Paul. These few criticized the children of the Lord for marrying, for eating, for allowing men not to wear the tallith, for allowing women to try to wear it, and for being ignorant of the law. They criticized Paul for working with Priscilla, for not accepting financial support for his ministry, and for being weak among other things. That they also criticized the church for letting women speak is the most natural interpretation of the passage in light of the historical situation.

Of course, I have not quite proven yet that women can speak freely in the church, because there is still 1 Tim 2:11 out there waiting to be properly understood. We'll get there.

Next I would like to look at the qualifications of elders and deacons.